Habeas Corpus and a Marriage Photo: Immigration Case Files

Today’s post comes from former education intern Natalie Charamut. She helped research, prepare for, and facilitate our 2015 Primarily Teaching summer institute in Washington, DC.

Back in July, teachers from across the country attended the Primarily Teaching summer institute in Washington, DC, and did original research into the topic of Chinese immigration. They digitized nearly 100 documents to be uploaded onto the National Archives online catalog and DocsTeach.org, our online tool for teaching with documents.

Although all of the documents scanned hold potential for teaching, a couple of the documents really stand out to me.

Page of Habeas Corpus Brief

Page of Habeas Corpus Brief Enclosed with Letter from U.S. Attorney Curtiss to Commissioner-General of Immigration Frank A. Sargeant, 1/5/1904. Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. National Archives Identifier: 23835774

A letter from U.S. Attorney Curtiss to Commissioner-General of Immigration Frank A. Sargeant conveys a brief of a U.S. Circuit Court case regarding habeas corpus. The Chinese immigrants in question claimed they were wrongfully held by immigration inspectors.

This document can be used in many different classes for many different things. Teachers can use this document to study not only Chinese immigration but also to study the Constitution and law and how the two work together, since habeas corpus is covered in the Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution.

A letter from the Inspector in Charge at El Paso, Texas, to the Commissioner-General of Immigration conveying records on appeal is from the immigration case files of Lew Bong and Lue Ark Goon, two men who were trying to bring women who they described as their wives into the United States. However, their entrance was denied because the inspector in charge believed the women were prostitutes.

Marriage Photo Enclosed with Letter from Inspector to the Commissioner-General of Immigration

Marriage Photograph Enclosed with Letter from the Inspector in Charge at El Paso, Texas, to the Commissioner-General of Immigration Conveying Records on Appeal in the Cases of Lew Bong and Lue Ark Goon, 11/5/1906. From the Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. National Archives Identifier: 23835509. A scan of the original photo is on the left; a restoration created with Photoshop is on the right. (Thank you to Ed Autry at the Truman Presidential Library for his work on this photograph.)

This document would be interesting to use in a classroom with older students because it shows discrimination against the Chinese, but also against women. Chinese women had a more difficult time getting into the United States because of a widespread belief within the immigration service that many were prostitutes. Another reason this case stands out is because there is a marriage photo included of one of the men with his wife, making the document that much more memorable for students.

I enjoyed preparing for and working with teachers during the Primarily Teaching summer institute. I learned a lot about the research process as well as Chinese immigration. It was great to watch the progress from beginning to end, and to see the online activities that the teachers created based on these primary sources published on DocsTeach. (Log in or register for a free DocsTeach account, then follow this link to the activities.)

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One Response to Habeas Corpus and a Marriage Photo: Immigration Case Files

  1. Megan says:

    It is really wonderful that this research was conducted and introduced in the classroom. Children have to learn cultural acceptance so that, once grown, they will have excellent cultural competency which will be very important for their working lives.

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